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J Epidemiol. 2014;24(2):161-7. Epub 2013 Dec 7.

Is a cutoff of 10% appropriate for the change-in-estimate criterion of confounder identification?

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School of Public Health, University of Hong Kong.



When using the change-in-estimate criterion, a cutoff of 10% is commonly used to identify confounders. However, the appropriateness of this cutoff has never been evaluated. This study investigated cutoffs required under different conditions.


Four simulations were performed to select cutoffs that achieved a significance level of 5% and a power of 80%, using linear regression and logistic regression. A total of 10 000 simulations were run to obtain the percentage differences of the 4 fitted regression coefficients (with and without adjustment).


In linear regression, larger effect size, larger sample size, and lower standard deviation of the error term led to a lower cutoff point at a 5% significance level. In contrast, larger effect size and a lower exposure-confounder correlation led to a lower cutoff point at 80% power. In logistic regression, a lower odds ratio and larger sample size led to a lower cutoff point at a 5% significance level, while a lower odds ratio, larger sample size, and lower exposure-confounder correlation yielded a lower cutoff point at 80% power.


Cutoff points for the change-in-estimate criterion varied according to the effect size of the exposure-outcome relationship, sample size, standard deviation of the regression error, and exposure-confounder correlation.

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